BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Obesity is common following hypothalamic damage due to tumours. Homeostatic and nonhomeostatic brain centres control appetite and energy balance but their interaction in the presence of hypothalamic damage remains unknown. We hypothesized that abnormal appetite in obese patients with hypothalamic damage results from aberrant brain processing of food stimuli. We sought to establish differences in activation of brain food motivation and reward neurocircuitry in patients with hypothalamic obesity (HO) compared with patients with hypothalamic damage whose weight had remained stable. SUBJECTS/METHODS: In a cross-sectional study at a University Clinical Research Centre, we studied 9 patients with HO, 10 agematched obese controls, 7 patients who remained weight-stable following hypothalamic insult (HWS) and 10 non-obese controls. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in the fasted state, 1 h and 3 h after a test meal, while subjects were presented with images of high-calorie foods, low-calorie foods and non-food objects. Insulin, glucagon-like peptide-1, Peptide YY and ghrelin were measured throughout the experiment, and appetite ratings were recorded. RESULTS: Mean neural activation in the posterior insula and lingual gyrus (brain areas linked to food motivation and reward value of food) in HWS were significantly lower than in the other three groups (P = 0.001). A significant negative correlation was found between insulin levels and posterior insula activation (P = 0.002). CONCLUSIONS: Neural pathways associated with food motivation and reward-related behaviour, and the influence of insulin on their activation may be involved in the pathophysiology of HO.